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Allen Jones' whistle-blowing led to his firing in Pennsylvania and also
DAVID SELL/PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
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By David Sell
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA--In Texas, Allen Jones determined that state employees were getting kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies, and his efforts resulted in his being named Whistle-blower of the Year and awarded about $20 million of the state's $158 million settlement.
In Pennsylvania, where Jones was a commonwealth-paid investigator, he and his information were dismissed--twice, almost a decade apart.
Jones had discovered malfeasance that was similar in both states, with the drug companies wanting state officials to help push higher-priced anti-psychotic drugs to foster children, among other wards of the state, through taxpayer-funded Medicaid programs.
In Texas, the attorney general turned the information into a $158 million payment from Johnson & Johnson's Janssen subsidiary, which makes the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal. The company offered to settle Jan. 19 after six days of trial testimony. More important, fewer children were prescribed the powerful drug, which hadn't been approved for use in children at the time but had known side effects such as weight gain and breast growth in boys. In rare cases, patients died while using the drug.
Though J&J did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, the settlement was a significant moment in the firm's continuing multiyear, multi-court, national legal fight over Risperdal.
There were similar circumstances but a wholly different story in Pennsylvania.
In 2002, as he investigated the Department of Welfare, Jones was rebuffed by supervisors in the Office of Inspector General.
Steven J. Fiorello, a pharmacist who oversaw drug policies at state hospitals, was convicted in Dauphin County, Pa., Court of Common Pleas on conflict-of-interest charges, but the state never used his information in its later efforts to stop the practice.
Jones was fired in 2004. Despite the personal and financial hardship he endured until getting millions from the Texas case, Jones tried to help Pennsylvania again.
In April 2011, he wrote to the new state leadership, including Gov. Tom Corbett, then-Acting Attorney General William Ryan and Inspector General Kenya Mann Faulkner, offering similar information that might expose current fraud.
The Office of the Inspector General eventually sent two men to see Jones. Then he got a letter from OIG general counsel Wesley Rish--the same Wesley Rish who was among the OIG leaders who ignored his information in 2002, fired him in 2004, and were defendants in the first of two lawsuits.
"You have not presented any issues which rise to the level of fraud, waste, abuse or misconduct within the OIG's jurisdiction," Rish wrote in a letter dated June 10, 2011.
"They're saying nothing rises to the level of fraud after Texas?" Jones said. "The same facts we used in Texas are available in Pennsylvania. The same pattern of deceit. The same lies regarding kids. The same off-label marketing. The same corruption of public employees. The same everything. I helped Texas get $158 million, but Pennsylvania says, 'This isn't a concern of ours'?"
Rish declined to comment.